Darrun Hilliard's 16 points help Villanova pull away

JayVaughn Pinkston of the Villanova Wildcats catches a JayVaughn Pinkston of the Villanova Wildcats catches a pass against the Milwaukee Panthers during the second round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the First Niagara Center on March 20, 2014 in Buffalo. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Jared Wickerham

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BUFFALO - One jolt to the system was enough for Villanova. There was no need for another wake-up call like the one at Madison Square Garden last week, which Villanova players and coach said would only help. How much it really helped is open to debate, considering how the Wildcats began Thursday night. In any case, they didn't repeat it.

Despite a sluggish start against University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee -- and the fact that it was a four-point game midway through the second half -- Villanova ultimately did pull away and won, 73-53, to advance in the East Regional of the NCAA Tournament.

Darrun Hilliard scored 16 points for the winners and JayVaughn Pinkston had 13 points and eight rebounds.

In the unexpected long layoff after losing right away against Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament last week, the Wildcats worked on their game and their outlook. They chose to see the defeat not as an embarrassment, but a midcourse correction.

"There are things that we took from that game that will help us now," James Bell said. "Everything matters. Everybody counts. Everybody is a great team at this point."

Coach Jay Wright said, "It was definitely a jolt to our system. And not just because it was a loss, because Seton Hall played really well. You could lose that game and be OK with it. But we didn't start that game ready to play, and that is the only game all year that we had done that."

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So naturally you would assume that Villanova would come out on fire against Milwaukee Thursday night. You would be wrong.

The 15th-seeded mid-major gave Villanova all kinds of headaches in the first half. With four minutes left before intermission, Milwaukee led by five, and its best player, Bronx guard Jordan Aaron, had not even scored yet (he finished with six). All told in the first half, Villanova was 0-for-12 on three pointers.

A late spurt in the first half and five quick points to begin the second put the higher seeded team up 32-23. It stayed ahead the rest of the way.

Now Villanova will play former conference compatriot Connecticut Saturday in a Big East reunion game. The winner advances to the Sweet Sixteen, marking the NCAA Tournament's return to the Garden after a 53-year absence.

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